Object-oriented computer user interface

A computer user interface includes a mechanism for graphically representing and displaying user-definable objects of multiple types. The object types that can be represented include data records, not limited to a particular kind of data, and agents. An agent processes information automatically on behalf of the user. Another mechanism allows a user to define objects, for example by using a template. These two mechanisms act together to allow each object to be displayed to the user and acted upon by the user in a uniform way regardless of type. For example, templates for defining objects allow a specification to be input by a user defining processing that can be performed by an agent.

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Claims

1. A computer user interface comprising:

means for graphically representing a set of objects as instances of types of semi-structured objects, wherein each object type has a set of actions that can be performed upon instances of such object type and wherein an object has a set of fields and one of the fields may contain information of any type, and wherein a first object may contain, as part of the value of one of the fields of the first object, a link to a second object, and wherein a graphical representation of the first object includes a display of an indication the link;
means for arranging the objects in a hierarchy of increasingly specialized types of a generic object type, and for causing each object type to inherit fields and actions from any parent thereof; and
means for defining each type of object by means of a template.

2. A computer user interface according to claim 1, wherein the displayed indication of the link includes at least one of a symbol for the second object and a template associated with the second object.

3. A computer user interface according to claim 1, further comprising:

means for causing display of the second object when the displayed indication of the link is selected by a user.

4. A computer user interface comprising:

means for graphically representing objects that collectively are instances of a plurality of object types, wherein a data record is one of such object types;
means for causing at least some of the objects to be semi-structured in that each such object has at least one field in which the permitted value is not restricted to a specific kind of information and wherein at least one object includes at least one link to another object;
means for displaying an object including means for displaying an indication of any link from the object to another object;
means, responsive to user selection of a displayed indication of a link from one object to another object, for displaying the other object; and
means for providing a tailorable summary display of objects in response to user selection of fields of the object type.

5. A computer user interface according to claim 4, wherein the means for providing a tailorable summary display includes means for tailoring the summary display by user selection from a displayed list of alternatives.

6. A computer user interface according to claim 4, wherein a folder, comprising a collection of instances of an object type, is a pre-defined type of object.

7. A computer user interface according to claim 4, wherein

the means for displaying the first object displays a graphical indication of the link.

8. A computer user interface according to claim 7, wherein the means for providing a tailorable summary display includes means for causing the selectable summary display of a collection of objects and of the relationships, represented by links, between the objects.

9. A computer user interface according to claim 4, wherein the at least one field may include a plurality of links to other objects.

10. A computer user interface, comprising:

means for graphically representing objects that collectively are instances of at least one object type, each object type is semi-structured by having a set of fields, wherein at least one field contains information of any type, wherein a first object may contain, as part of the value of one of the fields, a link to a second object;
means for displaying the first object and an indication of the link;
means, responsive to user selection of the displayed indication of the link from the first object to the second object, for displaying the second object; and
means for providing a tailorable summary display of objects in response to user selection of fields of the object type.

11. A computer user interface according to claim 10, wherein the objects collectively are instances of a plurality of object types.

12. A computer user interface according to claim 11, wherein a data record is one of such object types, and an agent is another of such object types.

13. A computer user interface according to claim 12, wherein a folder is one of such object types.

14. A computer user interface according to claim 4, wherein the means for displaying the first object displays a template of the second object embedded in the display of the field of the first object.

15. An object-oriented computer user interface system, comprising:

a first semi-structured object type, wherein an instance of the first object type comprises:
a collection of fields, wherein information in at least one of the fields may be of any type, and wherein a value in at least one field includes a link to another instance of any object type;
a display method for displaying the instance of the object type, including displaying an indication of the link to the other instance of any object type;
a display link method for displaying the other instance of any object type upon selection by the user of the displayed indication of the link; and
a second semi-structured object type, wherein an instance of the second object type comprises:
a collection of fields, wherein information in at least one of the fields may be of any type, and wherein a value in at least one field includes a link to another instance of any object type;
a display method for displaying the instance of the object type, including displaying an indication of the link to the other instance of any object type;
a display link method for displaying the other instance of any object type upon selection by the user of the displayed indication of the link; and
means for displaying a summary view of a plurality of instances of an object type, wherein fields to be displayed are selectable by a user.

16. The object-oriented user interface of claim 15, wherein the means for displaying includes means for displaying the summary view in a format selected by a user.

Referenced Cited

U.S. Patent Documents

5630120 May 13, 1997 Vachey

Other references

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Patent History

Patent number: 5727175
Type: Grant
Filed: Jun 7, 1995
Date of Patent: Mar 10, 1998
Assignee: Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge, MA)
Inventors: Thomas W. Malone (Cambridge, MA), Kum-Yew Lai (Bukit Merah View), Keh-Chiang Yu (Boston, MA), Richard W. Berenson (Newton, MA)
Primary Examiner: Phu K. Nguyen
Law Firm: Wolf, Greenfield & Sacks, P.C.
Application Number: 8/479,784

Classifications

Current U.S. Class: 395/356
International Classification: G06F 1500;